Galleria mellonella as an Insect Model for P. destructans, the Cause of White-Nose Syndrome in Bats

Chapman N Beekman, Lauren Meckler, Eleanor Kim, Richard J Bennett

Preprint posted on January 08, 2018

White nose syndrome is decimating bat populations and now Chapman Beekman and colleagues are suggesting infecting greater wax moths (Galleria mellonella) with the fungus that causes the lethal infection to learn more about it.

Selected by Heath MacMillan
The experiments conducted by Chapman Beekman and Colleagues to test a new model of fungal infection. Graphical abstract graciously provided by the authors.


Context and major contributions:

White nose syndrome is responsible for killing millions of bats over the last decade, and continues to spread across Canada and the United States. Devising methods of control for the fungus responsible for the infection (Pseudogymnoascus destructans), however, requires a laboratory model for infection and the fungus grows slowly on bats in captivity. So why not try it on a fast growing and common insect model of infection? Chapman Beekman and colleagues first exposed wax moths (Galleria mellonella) to P. destructans, and monitored the animals for signs of infection. Indeed, moths exposed to spores were killed by the fungus in the days and weeks following infection, and germinated spores of killed moths at least three times faster than non-germinated spores. By contrast, heat killed spores had no effect on the moths, meaning infection and death from P. destructans requires live spores.

One of the main goals in studying P. destructans is to identify potent chemical inhibitors that may control or eliminate fungal infection in bats. The authors made an important contribution to this endeavor by identifying two fungicidal chemicals that facilitated moth survival in the presence of the fungus.


Outstanding questions:

  • Since white nose syndrome in mammals results from external, rather than internal infection (the moths were injected), are the mechanisms of infection similar enough for an insect to serve as a suitable model?
  • The physiological effects of destructans on bats (i.e. the mechanisms leading to death) are still under active investigation. Are these mechanisms likely to be shared across such distantly related animals?


Related Research:

Binder, U., Maurer, E., Lass-Florl C. (2016) Galleria mellonella: An invertebrate model to study pathogenicity in correctly defined fungal species. Fungal Biol 120:288-295.

McGuire, L.P., Mayberry, H. W., Willis, C. K. R. (2017) White-nose syndrome increases torpid metabolic rate and evaporative water loss in hibernating bats. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol 313: R680–R686.

Kryukov, V. Y., Yaroslavtseva, O. N., Whitten, M. M. A., Tyurin, M. V., Ficken, K. J., Greig, C., Melo, N. R., Glupov, V. V., Dubovskiy, I. M., Butt, T. M. (2017), Fungal infection dynamics in response to temperature in the lepidopteran insect Galleria mellonella. Insect Science DOI 10.1111/1744-7917.12426




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